It’s curious that Fabrice Herzog, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ fifth round pick in 2013, would return to Switzerland after just one season in North America.
Selected by the Quebec Remparts in the 2013 CHL Import Draft, Herzog crossed the pond after developing in the Pikes Oberthurgau youth system and with EV Zug’s U20 squad. In 61 games with the Remparts, Herzog buried 32 goals and tallied 58 points, good for fourth in team scoring.
One of his country’s top youngsters, Herzog also suited up for Team Switzerland at the 2014 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships in Malmo, Sweden. In five games, Herzog lead his team with three goals.
Despite his success, and despite the Remparts set to host the 2015 MasterCard Memorial Cup, Herzog chose to return home on a one-year contract with EV Zug’s men’s team. It’s not a huge surprise to see a young player prefer to play at home (and for a professional hockey team, which will pay him professional hockey money), but it’s not often you see one return so soon.
With Quebec, Herzog would have been a been a key contributor on a powerhouse team. In Switzerland, he will be the youngest player on the roster, battling for ice time against much older teammates (such as Robbie Earl, who can mentor him in the art of flaming out as a Leafs prospect).
Herzog has, in fact, already suited up for EV Zug. Besides playing in 20 games with the men’s team two years ago before jumping to Quebec, Herzog is currently taking part in the Champions Hockey League tournament, tallying one assist in two games so far.
Herzog will play on Thursday this week when EV Zug plays host to ERC Ingolstadt (DEL), and again against the Viktovice Steel (Czech Extraliga) on Saturday.
Herzog was one of the biggest movers in this year’s Top Twenty Prospects countdown, moving up six spots since last season’s midterm rankings. Three of our nine writers even ranked Herzog in their top ten, while one didn’t rank him at all. There’s no doubt that his goal-scoring ability and offensive output, even for a 19-year old in the QMJHL, impressed us. Maybe it's simply that the Leafs do not have many players like Herzog in their prospect pool.
However, gaining experience and further developing his skill set will be of monumental importance to Herzog going forward. If he can’t produce offensively and establish himself amongst Switzerland’s top players, I wouldn’t be surprised if Herzog falls right out of our Top Twenty by next offseason.